by Thom Yee
As much as I’ve disliked Beth in the past, as much as I’ve thought that her strongest contributions to the show have been somewhere between peripheral and outright unnecessary, and as much as I’d hoped her kidnapping (and the ensuing apathy of the characters affected by it) would prove to be permanent, at least she’s given our heroes something to do.
In “Consumed”, we catch up with Carol and Daryl, who were previously in hot pursuit of the same car that Daryl saw after Beth’s kidnapping. At the same time, we’re filled in on some of what Carol’s been doing away from Rick and company ever since she was kicked out of the prison, including… I guess all we really see is her holing up in a building for a while. Carol’s flashbacks, though relevant to the story at hand, don’t fill in much of her missing time (which, who knows, might only be like two weeks in story time), and I actually would’ve liked to see more.
Carol and Daryl’s pursuit leads them through the leftovers of Atlanta, following clues as to Beth’s whereabouts, including discussing fine art (?) and surviving falling off a bridge in a derelict hospital van (??). And then Noah (from “Slabtown”) shows up and steals their stuff. I think we all kind of knew that as long as Noah wasn’t going to disappear from the show entirely (which seemed unlikely given that he was played by a recognizable actor), he was probably going to hook up with Carol and Daryl eventually, but who knew their first meeting would be such a hilarious misunderstanding. Anyway, things eventually shake out as they rightly should after C & D save Noah from a walker and they all find out they know and want to save Beth. Then Carol gets hit by probably the one moving car in all of Atlanta (though to be fair, she was still shaking off the effects of falling off of a bridge in said hospital van) and gets taken to the hospital, catching us up to the real time of unconscious Carol from the end of “Slabtown” (from two weeks ago) and nearly catching us up to the real time of Daryl mysteriously telling someone to “come on out” at the end of “Four Walls and a Roof” (from three weeks ago).
The most surprising thing about “Consumed”, and it’s something that’s been building for a while this season, is how much better the show has almost suddenly become. It’s verging on genuinely good, and if the show runners can keep the rest of the season at or anywhere near the level of this episode, The Walking Dead will be an overall good show for the first time since the first season. First off, we’ve been following a non-linear storyline for the last four episodes, but nothing about it feels jarring or unnatural, and it actually enhanced the overall storytelling. Second, as I mentioned with Carol’s time away, for the first time we’re nearing a surplus of compelling storytelling material, leaving us in a place where we want to see more. Third, the show’s actually showing a bit of subtlety, as in the scene where Carol thanks Daryl for burning the bodies of the walker children found at their first rest stop in an obvious (and displayed) parallel to her experiences with Lizzie and Mika and that whole mess. And fourth, there’s finally a bit of nuance to the characters that isn’t reliant on big, crazy moments like Rick imagining his dead wife on the other end of the telephone. Carol reflects on her growth away from Ed, Daryl carries his copy of Surviving Childhood Abuse, and there’s an honest, meaningful questioning of their place when Carol asks whether or not they get to save people anymore.
The overt themes of “Consumed” clearly correlate with the many fires in the episode burning away the last vestiges of whoever these people were, good or bad. Up until now, Carol’s had to harden herself and take on all the tough responsibilities, and moments like Daryl taking on the responsibility of disposing of the two child walkers shows both growth in their relationship and how deeply they understand each other, a fact compounded by them sleeping together without sleeping with each other (sorry to all you wrong-headed Carol-Daryl shippers). For C & D, the fire also represents a rising from the ash, emerging as better, stronger people, truer to themselves as a result of unexpected circumstances. And all it took was the near-total breakdown and destruction of society as we know it.
The Walking Dead “Consumed” final score: 9
Items of Note:
- Seeing our characters back in the city for maybe the first time since the first season really made for a nice change of scenery. A very welcome change from where in the woods.”
- Holding that arrow in your mouth, Daryl? It may be practical, but isn’t that the same arrow that was just inside a walker brain? Hope you at least wiped it off on your pants.
- Still don’t really get why the van was such a big clue, but hey, stunt scene.
- On the subject, that van did not look like it was going to land right side up.
- I guess now we know the answer to, “If one walker jumps off a bridge…”
- It would’ve been funny if Daryl had to go on describing Beth before Noah recognized her: “Blonde, crazy-big eyes, does everything in a weird way, kind of useless, pretty annoying, not nearly as young as she looks, uh…”
- Daryl lighting a cigarette, saying: “I already helped you once, ain’t happening again.” Probably the most badass moment of the entire show.
- Now that I think about it, I wonder if Carol ever thought about how convenient it is that the only post-prison survivors were all the main characters and the only people that died were all the Woodbury cannon fodder.